In an important decision that will set the precedent for similar cases, Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled Friday to compensate an employee who was fired from the job shortly after being diagnosed with HIV.
The employee from the western province of Izmir, acknowledged with the initials T.T.A, was diagnosed with HIV in 2006. T.T.A was kept away from the workplace for six months but was kept on the payroll. Upon the company doctor's inquiry, Ege University Medicine Faculty Hospital, where T.T.A was being treated, said that the employee's health does not pose any threat in a working environment.
T.T.A resigned from the job in 2009, however, launched a lawsuit against the company in a local labor court claiming that several documents were forced upon him, exploiting his health condition. The local court ruled to compensate T.T.A based on discriminatory practices, but did not accept T.T.A's claim for the breach of the right of privacy, confidentiality order and compensation for moral damages.
Upon an appeal by the company, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against the local labor court's decision and said that the company acted on the grounds to protect its other employees.
T.T.A applied to the Constitutional Court, which ruled that the employee's material and moral rights and privacy right were breached. The top court also ruled for an additional 8,000 Turkish liras ($2,150) compensation for T.T.A as the confidentiality order was rejected.
Although the plaintiff was paid all legal dues by the company during his resignation, this was in fact due to T.T.A being HIV positive and facilitated the ouster of the employee, who needed regular income for treatment, the court said.
It added that the Supreme Court of Appeals and the local court focused on AIDS being an infectious disease but neglected the employer's responsibility to consider T.T.A in another position that would not pose any risk to other employees, despite the employer was advised by the company doctor, staff and financial managers and expert report to assign the employee to another position.
Noting the company's prejudice and condemnation against HIV-infected people, both the local and appeal court's decision were found lacking concrete reasons to deny the plaintiff's confidentiality order.
The top court's decision also pointed to the long – 4 years 10 months – trial period of T.T.A, another breach of the plaintiff's rights.